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Nativity students ‘craft’ some life lessons

NBC show contestant, do-it-yourself blogger visits school for arts and crafts class

Amber Kemp-Gerstel gets a little press time as she is interviewed by Nativity School Knightly News reporters Nicole Chang (center) and Elise Graham (right).

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Amber Kemp-Gerstel gets a little press time as she is interviewed by Nativity School Knightly News reporters Nicole Chang (center) and Elise Graham (right).

Amber Kemp-Gerstel, who admits she is a

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Amber Kemp-Gerstel, who admits she is a "hugger," receives a welcome hug from Brooke Beane, a young fan from Nativity School.

HOLLYWOOD | Mod Podge craft glue, fall foliage-themed napkins, a rainbow of tissue paper and a sponge brush can convert a simple glass plate into a stained glass-looking work of art.

It’s called decoupage, and it’s what students at Nativity School learned during an elective arts and crafts class recently. Making it more memorable: Their teacher was Amber Kemp-Gerstel, a finalist on NBC’s summer crafting and do-it-yourself show “Making It.”

Decoupage is the art of decorating an object by gluing cutouts of paper.

“You can Mod Podge all things,” said Kemp-Gerstel, as she joined Nativity teachers Susana Brown and Maureen Atkins for the class.

Both teachers said they played around with decoupage the week before to be ready for the day’s lesson. “It can get messy, but when you’re done and you turn your plate around, it just looks like an awesome finished product,” said Atkins.

After listening to instructions, students gathered around a table and shuffled through the napkins and tissue paper.

“It looks like there’s a tissue fight going on,” Kemp-Gerstel said as colors were passed around and pieces were torn apart.

Once selections were made, students applied the Mod Podge glue to the plates. The glue dries slowly and allows for creative flexibility in case the maker changes his or her mind.

As Kemp-Gerstel visited and assisted at each table, students expressed awe and curiosity. Nativity School Knightly News reporters Nicole Chang and Elise Graham asked how long she had been crafting and what her favorite craft was.

“I’ve liked crafting since I was probably seven years old. When I was a kid, I wanted my mom to pay my allowance in stickers because that’s how much I liked crafting and making things,” Kemp-Gerstel said. “I like to make things that are easy. I like crafting with paper, I like sewing, and I like fabric. I like any project that I can show someone else how to do.”

Before she became a do-it-yourself blogger and professional crafter, Kemp-Gerstel was a child psychologist in Miami, working with kids, teens and families facing emotional and behavioral challenges. She’s married to Andrew Kemp-Gerstel, a lawyer and former student of Nativity School teacher Lynne Moore. They have one son, Marcus.

Seralyn Montenegro decoupages her plate with a cat face design.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Seralyn Montenegro decoupages her plate with a cat face design.

Kemp-Gerstel’s life-long passion for crafting prompted her to take a risk, leave her psychology practice, and pursue her dream of crafting for a living. She said the idea had not occurred to her sooner because it was nontraditional: not the 9 to 5, steady paycheck, with insurance type of job she knew while growing up in the 1980s.

“When I was the age of these girls, this was not a job. Social media was not a thing. People didn’t have blogs or websites, people weren’t entrepreneurs; that just wasn’t a choice. Now these girls, and even for those older, this is a business. It’s a lot of work, but there are more options for what can be a job,” said Kemp-Gerstel, who manages her crafting blog, Damask Love, and has worked with Martha Stewart Living, Home Depot, the Container Store, Home and Family on the Hallmark Channel, and more.

At Nativity, middle school students can explore careers every first Friday through electives which include arts and crafts, gaming, athletic training and endurance, broadcasting, campus ministry, community service, digital marketing, domestic DIY/home economics, finance, health and nutrition, kids in the kitchen, musical theatre, and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math).

Elena Ortiz, Nativity’s principal, said the program started about five years ago. At the beginning of the academic year, students choose their top five electives and are placed accordingly. They complete a total of seven to eight classes throughout the academic year.

“We wanted to expand the students’ horizons and offer them something outside of their regular curriculum that would be fun, educational and engaging. They are taught by our teachers and a few parents who have special skills and talents to share with us,” said Ortiz.

While the elective activities are vast, life lessons are tied in to the fun. From her own experiences on television and the business world, Kemp-Gerstel reminded girls to empower themselves and believe in their talents, even when critics say otherwise.

“You can’t get your feelings hurt. (On the show) there are two opinions and millions of people watching, and I know that the things I make will resonate with someone. I usually give myself five minutes of feeling sad for myself, and then I’m like ‘Ok, you gotta pick up and move on.’”

Jaden Natividad and Giann Becker show the final look of their decoupage plates.

Photographer: CRISTINA CABRERA JARRO| FC

Jaden Natividad and Giann Becker show the final look of their decoupage plates.


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